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A&E Home Video presents
The Avengers '66—Set 2, Volume 4 (1966)

"Patrick Macnee's Steed is by now unimprovable."
- The Stage and Television Today, 24 February 1966

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: April 25, 2000

Stars: Patrick Macnee, (Dame) Diana Rigg
Director: Various (See below)

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: Approx.208 min total
Release Date: August 31, 1999
UPC: 733961700343
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AD+B C

DVD Review

For overall series review, click here.

'66 Set 2, Volume 4
4 Episodes:

The House that Jack Built
Steed Takes a Wrong Turn—Emma Holds the Key to All

US air date: May 16 1966
Director: Don Leaver

Withers: "I'm a very mathematical person."
Mrs. Peel: "You're also very stupid."

Mrs. Peel receives a letter from her family lawyer that she has inherited her Uncle Jack's house in Pendlesham. Steed realizes after she heads out that the key its idiosyncrasies; Emma discovers immediately upon her arrival that the house is, too. Dressed in white from head to toe, she becomes a bit like a mouse in a maddening maze. Will her knight in shining armor save her before she's driven out of her mind?

We are spectators along memory lane as we learn about our lovely hero's past. We discover that her maiden name was Knight, see a photo of her parents and see her find her favorite doll But the jewel of her history is that she has been an independent woman for some time: at 21 she took over her father's business!

A psychological drama with a sci-fi (circa 1966) edge—this is how The Avengers explore the idea of "going postal ".

Note to the continuity editor: After Steed crashes his car through the road gate, one of his headlights is mangled, but a minute later it 's amazingly fine again.

Libations: Steed: coffee; Emma: a good stiff drink. I rate this episode 3 libations out of 5, unique for its time.


A Sense of History
Steed Dons a Gown—Emma Becomes a Don

US air date: June 20 1966
Director: Peter Graham Scott

Professor Acheson: "Yes, well, if Duboys gives you any more trouble, just report him to the Proctor."
Steed: "I'll do better than that. I'll break his arm."

A famous economist is found dead on his way to a meeting at St. Bodes University and The Avengers go back to school to catch his killers. They encounter a group of young roustabouts (who smack quite a bit of the amoral hooligans of A Clockwork Orange) who disrespect their professors and basically buck authority, period.

This plot is fairly convoluted—I can't say I made much sense of it. The students are following a specific economic philosophy in a cultish sort of way, but I never quite grasped what or why. Maybe it is not important to know in order to enjoy the episode, but I was left unpleasantly confused. And as this is one of the more "reality-based" stories (no diabolical masterminds, no alien man-eating plants, etc.), the flow is ragged at best.

Not their finest hour.

Note to continuity editor: Too many little details, my favorite being Carlyon putting out the fire by dousing it with whiskey.

Libations: Steed: Coffee and Whiskey; Emma has a cup of tea. This only reads a 2 from me.


How to Succeed...at Murder
Steed becomes a perfect boss—and Emma goes seeking charm.

US Air date: June 13 1966
Director: Don Leaver

"Indeed, I have smelled all over the world!" - J.J. Hooter

The plot at first look might seem redundant—top business muckety-mucks are being murdered—but in this scenario it is at its best. In the opening scene we have a fed up secretary blow up her boss, and we know we are in for a devilishly good ride.
A seemingly random group of "charmed" women are smashing the glass ceiling and holding their own, and Mrs. Peel infiltrates their ranks to sniff them out.

The first clue is the scent of perfume still lingering in the back seat of the car (the scene of the second murder). Our sly sleuths suck it up into a tire pump that Emma brings to a professional "nose", the fabulous J.J. Hooter, who provides the penultimate laugh-out-loud scene in the series. Even Rigg can barely stifle her urge to break down as he rants about the perfection of his proboscis: "There you have the splendid beast naked before you!"

Of course, imagining a time, not so long ago, when women might consider murder as a step on the corporate ladder is both amusing and provocative to contemplate.... But this is a true gem, as good as it gets, once we accept the absurdity of many of our heroes' adventures. Hysterical would be an understatement, if I could think of a stronger word. This fem gang (whose motto is: "Ruination to all men!"), their methods of murder; the camera angles and the played-for-laughs dialogue make this utterly implausible plot A-1.

Libations: Too busy for drinkies, I guess.But I'll raise my glass to it𔃋-1/2 times.


Bonus episode:
Honey for the Prince
Steed Becomes a Genie—Emma Joins a Harem

US Air date: Not in original US schedule
Director: James Hill

Bumble: "I have 365 different types of honey. Just imagine breakfast toast for a whole year and never the same flavor twice!"
Mrs. Peel: "Except in a leap year."

A delightful opening: Steed and Emma returning from something festive, dressed to the nines and skipping along like, well, lovers...very sweet. Ah but all good things, well, you know.

Back at Steed's flat, there is a dying agent who manages to croak out a clue. This means a trip to the local honey shop for Emma (accompanied by some lovely bee music), and a visit to the QQF—Quite Quite Fantastic, Inc., purveyors of your wildest dreams, for lucky Steed. They uncover an assasination plot aimed at the young prince of Barabia and use their wiles to save him.

Emma fans won't want to miss her dance of the (almost) seven veils—or the adorable way she tugs at her knickers as she heads for the hareem. The tag is a good bit of fun as well.

This one is fun, a bit convoluted as usual, but classic stuff that should not be missed!

Libations: Steed: 2 drinks and tea; Emma has a drink and several good pulls off a hookah! This one gets a 4-1/2 salutes.


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Sadly, this is the worst disc in the set. I can only assume that better source material was not available for these episodes, or that the "digital" guy went on vacation or came down with a delirious fever to let this one pass inspection. For the first time in the series, the transfers are inconsistent, dirty and just plain nasty.

In the first episode, "The House that Jack Built", it is true that most of the sets are a stark black and white, different that most. But these blacks are grainy and soft; the whites wash out in hotspots. Overall, it seems the films transferred to this disc were never even clean, let alone remastered.



Image Transfer Grade: D+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
PCMEnglish, monono


Audio Transfer Review: The same as the previous discs in this series: My only real complaint again is the original title sequence, "The Age of Elegance": it has that annoying raise in volume TV productions seem to have by default. But the theme itself has always been stunning, an icon of the era, and the music chosen for individual episodes is, in most cases, equal to the scenes they underscore. From the comedic scenes to the height of suspense, the tracks are almost always right on.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production Stills Gallery
  2. Web Site Promo
Extras Review: The menus were obviously considered in the overall package design, a sort of 60's mod use of abstraction and color, a nice touch for that retro look. The extras consist of a gallery of stills from individual episodes included on each disc, but they're only about 1/4 of the screen. I would prefer them larger, perhaps as much as full screen to truly enjoy them. Every disc also has a menu link to A&E's "www.originalavengers.com", a good marketing move but poorly executed—why not give us a real taste of what's in store for us there? And—are there ever enough chapters? These would be easier to navigate with a few more choices within a few less clicks.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Even though the transfer is poor, it is watchable and the classic episodes on this disc make it a "must have" for collectors.

This disc gets 4 libations out of 5.


 


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